Defamation (2009) - Rotten Tomatoes

Defamation (2009)

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What is anti-Semitism today, two generations after the Holocaust? In his continuing exploration of modern Israeli life, director Yoav Shamir (Checkpoint, 5 Days, Flipping Out) travels the world in search of the most modern manifestations of the oldest hatred", and comes up with some startling answers.In this irreverent quest, he follows American Jewish leaders to the capitals of Europe, as they warn government officials of the growing threat of anti-Semitism, and he tacks on to a class of Israeli high school students on a pilgrimage to Auschwitz.On his way, Shamir meets controversial historian, Norman Finkelstein, who offers his unpopular views on the manner that anti-Semitism is being used by the Jewish community and especially Israel for political gain. He also joins scholars, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer, while they give a lecture in Israel following the release of their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, about the un-proportional influence the Israel lobby in Washington enjoys. Yoav visits Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, the must stop for all world leaders on their visits to Israel. While in Jerusalem, he drops by the house of his grandmother that offers her insight on the issue and declares that she is the real Jew.The film questions our perceptions and terminology when an event proclaimed by some as anti-Semitic is described by others as legitimate criticism of Israel(TM)s government policies. The film walks along the boundary between anti-Zionism, rejecting the notion of a Jewish State, and anti-Semitism, rejecting Jews. Is the former being used to excuse the latter? And is there a difference between today(TM)s anti-Semitism and plain old racism that is affecting all minorities?Opinions often differ and tempers sometimes flare, but in Defamation we find that one thing is certain - only by understanding their response to anti-Semitism can we really appreciate how Jews today, and especially modern Israelis, respond to the world around them, in New York and in Moscow, in Gaza and Tel Aviv. -- (C) Official Site

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Critic Reviews for Defamation

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (10)

End result is at once intelligent, wry and -- there's no way around it -- quintessentially Jewish, in the best sense.

July 6, 2010
Variety
Top Critic

The filmmaker gives roughly equal time to left, right, and moderate views, but his glib narration, accentuated by a jaunty score, undercuts this otherwise worthy inquiry.

February 2, 2010 | Full Review…
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The film wades airily into a cultural no-flyover zone, sits down, and says: OK, let's talk.

December 3, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Even though Defamation, which is sprinkled with unexpected moments of wry humor, will be inescapably controversial, Yoav Shamir strives admirably to be evenhanded.

November 20, 2009 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Presumably Mr. Shamir's film plays differently in Israel. In the United States, it feels like just another day on the Op-Ed page.

November 20, 2009 | Rating: 1.5/5 | Full Review…
New York Times
Top Critic

Yoav Shamir's documentary Defamation takes on such an explosive topic that the director only gradually reveals the film's real subject.

November 19, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Defamation

½

"He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana It's always kind of frustrating when there is a movie whose conclusion I agree with but where the logic is especially faulty and that's very true for "Defamation." On the one hand, I agree with filmmaker Yoav Shamir that one can be critical of Israel without being anti-semitic, although there are many poeple who do so for exactly that reason. But then according to this documentary, anti-semitism does not exist in this day and age. Although, he did find it on a street corner in Brooklyn faster than you could find an egg cream. Sure, Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, might just be exaggerating but that's how you fundraise, by scaring your demographic(For example, an arts movie theatre could say that if you don't support them, they will be showing "Fast Five" this upcoming weekend), and it's questionable the extent of the influence he has with Israeli authorities. As a result, the documentary shows tabloid journalism is pretty much the same wherever you go. Shamir's other target is a class trip of Israeli students to visit a former concentration camp in Poland, in reality not to indoctrinate them, but because youngsters were starting to lose touch with their past. Actually, it will probably make them more empathetic to the sufferings of others. You just have to make them understand that the Holocaust was not a unique event.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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